12/17/2011 11:33PM

Blast from the past....10 from 1979


My mind sometimes drifts to the "good old days" and recollections of favorite racehorses from decades ago.  Just for fun, here's a look back at ten favorites who raced at Saratoga in 1979.  Yes, that was 32 (!) years ago, the first year I had easy access to a car.  How many people out there in cyber-land remember these stars?  


Above:  Smart Angle (6/2/77 - 2001, by Quadrangle - Smartaire, by Quibu).  Champion 2-year-old filly.  7 wins to 3, $414,217.  Selima S. - G1, Matron S. - G1, Spinaway S. - G1, Poinsettia S. - G3, Adirondack S. - G3, Lucky Penny S. - R.  Smart Angle was a half- or full sister to Smarten, Smart Heiress and Quadratic.  She was also the dam of Houston.

Above:  Star de Naskra outfinishes Cox's Ridge and The Liberal Member in the 1979 Whitney.  Star de Naskra (2/15/75 - 10/1/00, by Naskra - Candle Star by Clandestine) was 1979's champion sprinter.  36 starts, 15-10-4 $587,391. Star de Naskra won eight stakes - including the Cornhusker Handicap (G2), Whitney Stakes (G2), Carter Handicap (G2), and Bold Ruler Stakes.  The goodnatured horse sired Sewickley and Carr de Naskra.

Note the infield crowd.  I remember lying down on the steeplechase 'cushions' that were kept in the infield, although I have no memory of toilets, betting windows or food out there.   There must have been, though!

Above:  A personal favorite, although not a top stakes filly, was Rio Rita (b. 3/30/77, by Secretariat - Java Moon, by Graustark).   17 starts - 4 wins, 3 seconds, 8 thirds.  $75,743. Third in the Miss Woodford Stakes.  Dam of SW Balarat.  I guess she was a favorite for obvious reasons - being a daughter of Secretariat, who won impressively at Saratoga, from a lovely Darby Dan family.

Angel Cordero, Jr. up.

Above:  Island Kiss (b. 3/26/75, by Hawaii - Fun House by The Doge), raced 32 times during her three-year campaign.  She won 7 races and earned $203,833.  While a stakes win eluded her, she placed second or third in 8 stakes and set a track record at Saratoga - 1:48 for 9 furlongs.   Half-sister to Argentinian champion sire Good Manners.

Mike Venezia up, before the Diana H.

Above:  Native Courier (ch. g., born 4/14/75, by Exclusive Native - Courtly Dee, by Never Bend).  51 starts from 1977 through 1982.  14-11-9, $522,635.  The beautifully bred turf specialist won 4 graded stakes and placed in many others.  His dam is one of the best in modern history.  Among her offspring were Althea, Aquilegia, Twining, Ali Oop, Ketoh, Princess Oola and Aishah.  She produced eight stakes winners.

Above:  Pearl Necklace (3/12/74 - 1991, by Ambernash - Another Jane by Traffic Judge).  This very popular stakes mare won 21 of her 48 starts, with 17 second- or third-place finishes, and she earned $737,862.  She won stakes at two (Tempted), three (G2 Gazelle, G3 Long Island), four (G2 Maskette and G3 Long Island) and five (G2 Diana, G2 Hempstead, G2 Shuvee, Flower Bowl, Geisha).  She raced 16 times in 1977 alone.  Pearl Necklace was a full sister to Nashua Stakes winner Our Escapade.

Above and below:  General Assembly (4/30/76 - 2005 - by Secretariat - Exclusive Dancer, by Native Dancer). 17 Starts: 7 - 6 - 1, $463,245.  The tremendously popular stakes colt set a track record winning the Travers by 15 lengths - 2:00 for 1 1/4 miles.  Also won the Hopeful (G1), Saratoga Special (G2), Vosburgh (G2) and Gotham (G2).  His dam was a half-sister to Exclusive Native, the sire of Affirmed.  

Above:  General Assembly, Jacinto Vasquez up, wins his Travers prep at Saratoga on August 4, 1979.  Below:  heading to the test barn.

Above and below:  Rockhill Native, the champion 2-year-old colt/gelding of 1979 (3/28/77 - 3/19/09, by Our Native - Beanery, by Cavan).  1st Futurity S.-G1, Blue Grass S.-G1, Sapling S.-G1, Cowdin S.-G2, Everglades S., Jefferson Cup.  Rockhill Native finished first in the Hopeful (above) but was disqualified and placed 6th.

Above:  State Dinner (4/11/75 - 2001, by Buckpasser - Silver Bright, by Barbizon).  23 starts, 8 wins, 5 seconds, 4 thirds, $537,859.  Won Suburban H. (G1), Century H. (G1), Metropolitan H. (G1), Whitney S. (G2), El Monte Stakes (L).  Sired the champion Family Style.  Half-brother to Banquet Table.

Above/below:  Rivalero (above, with Charlie Rose up and below, enjoying a roll).  Who didn't like this cantankerous, hard-knocking gelding by Riva Ridge - Dictates, by Bold Ruler?  (b. 3/31/76).  67 Starts: 17 - 8 - 7, earnings of $568,475.  Rivalero raced for eight years (I'm guessing his last starts were over the jumps, as he had three "maiden" appearances in a row, at age 9, before retiring). Won the G2 Roamer H., G3 Fayette H., G3 Christmas Day H.